2015 has been an incredible year for music, and retrowave is no exception. A lot of amazing material has been produced, and interest in the genre has continued to grow. Our fearless leader has given me the pleasure of presenting the ten best tracks we’ve heard this year. We chose these songs not only by our own taste, but yours as well. We looked at what got the most buzz on YouTube, social media, and elsewhere. Without further ado, let’s get to listening!
#10: Sonic Mayhem – Futureland (feat. Power Glove)
This combination effort is a real thumper. Gently mean and brutally steady, it has a great, cold atmosphere. I especially like the voice samples and the thoughtfully chosen lead instrument. The overall effect is slightly spooky but surprisingly bright.
#9: Stellar Dreams – Dimensions
Delightful female vocals and authentic, old-school synth sounds here. Respectably solid effort from Stellar Dreams, who has a reputation for quality work. The breakdown/bridge in the middle of the song is especially well-executed.
#8: Zombie Hyperdrive - Gigawatt
There's certain synthwave tracks that make me imagine jumping in my coupe/hovercar/starship and just peeling out into the unknown to find the One True Dream. This is one of them. I don't just like it because it's on the Magnatron album, but I'm very happy it's on the Magnatron album. This song is everything pure retrowave should be: desperately hopeful, energetic, full of electricity. Not to mention that guitar break is OUTSTANDING.
#7: Dance With the Dead - Skeletons in the Attic
What can I even say about DWTD that hasn’t been said a hundred ways already? This track is driving, sharp, and hot. Just a few drops of darkness is enough to set the tone, but the track has such energy! DWTD is consistently high-quality.
#6: Raydar - Night of the Dead
Raydar has really impressed me, climbing darkwave’s ladder and adding depth and dimension as he goes. Some of the bigger names in the subgenre have really skewed away from the “retro” aspect, but Raydar hits a home run with this entry to the list. This bruiser has just enough grind and crunch to make you feel delightfully mean inside, but it’s airy and very 80s, too. We're not drowned in distortion; we're given a balanced serving of our daily destruction. A good example of dark retro synth done right.
#5: Daniel Deluxe - Star Eater
This song is a good example of a fantastic mid-tempo synthwave track. It’s a steady, unstoppable march that builds in intensity but never goes over the top. Daniel Deluxe consistently puts out good work, and this is no exception.
#4: STARFORCE - Age of Nano
Excellent feel here, half outrun and half dark. Appropriate for any iteration of the dark future. STARFORCE is a talent I’ll be keeping an ear out for more of in 2016! Simple but elegant melodies and fantastic drums.
#3: Confrontational - Like a Curse (feat. Monte Pittman)
I reviewed Massimo Usai’s album earlier this year. I have to confess something: I normally really don’t like vocals in synthwave music. However, the entirety of A Dance of Shadows has these amazingly haunting vocal lines that have made me reconsider. Not to downplay the instrumentation or the drums, but the singing really locks this together. If I were going to pick a single to represent the album, it’d be this song. Massimo, if that’s you singing, keep singing, man. Keep singing.
#2: Atrey - Dark Prince
Somber and brooding, this track nonetheless packs tremendous power. The professionalism and sharpness leave me near speechless. The sound is vast and sprawling, and every little detail you hear is done just as it ought to have been. More great guitar, some excellent sampled voices, and an arrangement that builds and climaxes like a good movie. There’s nothing not to like.
#1: Miami Nights 1984 - Accelerated
This track perfectly captures that cool 80's feel we all hunger after as retrowave listeners. It has been overwhelmingly popular, which is why it easily won the race and held its pole position at #1. Miami Nights 1984 has been a top producer for a good while, and this is another stellar example of his work. It's exactly what it should be. It's got frenetic energy wrapped in a shell of pure cool.
Here's hoping next year brings us just as many (if not more) spectacular retrowave tracks! 2016 will be a big year for us, and we're sure it'll be one for you too!